As I drove my van into the main gate at the Standing Rock Sioux encampment on the Cannon Ball River in North Dakota few weeks ago, I was greeted by a smiling young Original Nations man. I told him that I was arriving from Ohio, was supportive of the cause, wanted to learn more, but mainly that I was there to help in any way they felt might be useful. He asked how long I thought I would be stay. I told him I did have to be back in Ohio for three or four weeks weeks.    The man at the main entrance gate invited me to go on in and find myself a place to set up my camp. Also at the gate entrance, on a little knoll above where the man had greeted and welcomed me, there was a warrior-looking guy, dancing, and appearing to be in a trance. His feet performed the rhythmic up and down dance movements typically seen in Native American ceremonies and demonstrations. He sang and made plaintiff wailing sounds. He raising his arms and outstretched hands up to the sky with his back arched while his feet danced. Slowly he would bring his arms down and stretch his hands out to the front of his dancing body. Then he would bend over and reverently touch the ground, and then rise back up. As he performed the movements in harmony with his dancing feet and singing, he did a fascinating pantomime of taking an invisible arrow out of an invisible sheath on his back, placing it carefully in an invisible bow, drawing it back and then letting it fly with a loud war cry. He repeated this over and over. I noticed that the sheath on his belt was empty. He carried no weapon. The only time I ever saw this warrior not doing his entrancing dance, was when he would join others already at the camp, inside the circle of new arrivals, where they walked around the inside of the circle, reverently bowing and grasping the hands of elders and members of the Standing Rock Sioux council. The entranced dancing warrior was not only highly reverent in all of his motions, but he was obviously highly revered and respected by the Standing Rock Sioux tribal people and elders there at the camp.    The dancing warrior carrying no weapon typified my observations there. No matter how emotional were the presentations of speeches and statements by Standing Rock Sioux tribal elders and representatives from many tribes from all over the world whom I watched entering the camp, no matter how adamant were the expressions of support and unity and need to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, perceived as the long-prophesied “black snake monster”, I never saw any weapons. To the contrary, I heard many messages affirming the commitment to nonviolence. I heard emotionally-poignant messages presented at the main circle sacred fire area, about the perceived sacred duty of the protectors to serve as a conscience for a civilization that has run amok. Standing Rock Tribal Council members and elders frequently mentioned that anyone who was unable to commit to nonviolent resistance, was not welcome at the camp.    Also as I entered the main gate, I beheld a diminishing point line of endless colorful flags of many tribal nations that had been presented by arriving tribal groups to the Standing Rock Sioux elders and council members, who greeted with great respect and gratitude the endless stream of incoming nations tribal members. Before each group arrived, there was an announcement over the intercom system identifying the arriving tribal entourage. With the advance notice, hundreds of people would line the dirt "Indigenous Highway" under the hundreds of flags blowing in the wind, and greet them with war cries and upraised fists, and with great fanfare. The entering tribal members made their triumphant entrance down the dusty dirt “Indigenous Highway”and would approach the Standing Rock Sioux council members with their arms outstretched and bearing various gifts. The spectacle of entering tribes went on day and night. I observed at least a hundred of these dignified and respectful but celebratory entrances. I usually found myself along with so many of the other people there greeting the incoming groups, literally crying openly. Tears are flowing down my cheeks at this moment as I recall these dignified, profoundly proud people, entering the camp.    The tribes came from all parts of the world, not just the United States. When they arrived at the main circle of the sacred main campfire, they would stand in a circle, and their leaders would speak. They approached the Standing Rock Sioux elders and council members who were there to greet them. They all expressed great gratitude at being welcomed into the camp of the Standing Rock Sioux. They all expressed how honored they were to be there. And they all expressed their unshakable unity with the Standing Rock Sioux in the cause of standing together to stop the Black Snake Monster pipeline that threatened the water. They all acknowledged, "minae wichioni, water is life!" They referred to each other as “relatives”, and acknowledged the uniquely historic and momentous character of the situation. Many mentioned how never before had so many tribal nations stood together in unity like that. Some mentioned that the last time all seven “fires” of the great Sioux Nation had gathered together in unity, was over a century ago, at Little Big Horn.    Even with recollections of Little Big Horn, there was unity in the understanding that they would be non-violent. Recognition of the significance of what was happening in that encampment was overwhelming. After the presentation of flags, gifts and other tokens of support, they some presented prayerful dances. Everybody would stand and remove hats when the prayer dances were happening. In respect for what was transpiring, I took no pictures. Representatives of the arriving tribes usually spoke first in their native tongues. Many opened with “Minae Wichione”, and then the English translation “water is life.” Many of the opening statement were lengthy and presented in native tongues, followed with the English translations. These prayerful and respectful and peaceful ceremonies went on day and night.    The repeated references to being peaceful, and not allowing themselves to be taunted into violence, was striking. In the several days I was there and was honored to be in the vicinity of these remarkable ceremonies, I never heard a single call to violence. To the contrary, I heard repeated references to their important role as the conscience for a civilization that has lost its way!  'Conscience for civilization!" I was honored to be observing acts and words and deeds of peoples who knew from centuries of experience, that their perspective of the need for a conscience, was profoundly true. 

  There was one time when I climbed into a pickup truck to go out to where the camp announcers had called for non-violent protectors to go. But most of the time when I was at Standing Rock, when not at my campsite, I remained in the main camp circle area of the main sacred fire and kitchen. I was honored to be welcomed as a volunteer to help unload trucks, help stack wood at the huge wood-fired cook oven, and help serve meals. At one point when working there, I saw and was approached by the reporter Amy Goodman. She was reporting what was happening there at Standing Rock. I respectfully requested not to engage in answering questions, because I perceived myself as a grateful immigrant in the Standing Rock Sioux nation. I was highly honored to have been welcomed into their camp and onto their land. Thankfully, later that weekend, Amy Goodman and her crew were present and were able to document with live reports and video the pipeline company's private “security” personnel assaulting peaceful people with attack dogs and pepper spray.    One day before the attacks occurred, on Friday, September 2, 2016, Standing Rock Sioux attorneys had identified in federal court the precise locations of scared burial sites needing protection. The very next day, on Saturday, September 3, 2016, when the courts were not available to intervene over the Labor Day holiday weekend, the pipeline company moved their bulldozers and equipment 15 miles ahead of where they had been working, to the precise locations identified in court as needing protection, and bulldozed over 40% of the area before protectors could stop them. The protectors nonviolently placed their bodies between the the bulldozers and the sacred grounds. That is when they were attacked and assaulted by the dogs and pepper spray. Thankfully, Amy Goodman's crew was present to document the horrible events for all the world to see. The images of violence unleashed on the nonviolent protectors brought to mind iconic images of peaceful protesters being assaulted by rioting cops in the South in the 60's.    The pipeline company's actions, moving from their work location to move up to precise sites that had been identified in court as needing protection, on a holiday weekend when the courts were closed, and then bulldozing the area, was perceived by objective observers as intentional provocation. Even in the face of such terrible provocations, the protectors did not return violence. Instead, they put their bodies between the bulldozers and the sacred sites, suffered the attacks of the dogs and pepper spray, and honored their commitment to be a conscience to the world, and to use only nonviolent resistance. Later, the State of North Dakota, which has been harassing people with roadblocks, car searches, and militarized police, filed charges against Amy Goodman for “riot” and “trespass”. The charges were quickly dismissed by the courts as having no basis in law or fact. No charges have been brought against the pipeline company's “security” personnel who assaulted people with their dogs and pepper spray.   In spite of the Sheriff and his deputies and the pipeline “security” people overwhelming intentional provocative acts designed to provoke violence and self-defensive behavior, and in spite of their highly orchestrated propaganda campaign of misinformation trying to paint the protectors as engaging in a “riot”, in an “uprising” and including violent people, what I observed were reverent and spiritually-inspired people, selflessly, courageously and non-violently putting themselves in harms way to protect their water, to be a much-needed conscience for a civilization that has lost its way, and indeed, to protect us all! Objective observers are incredulous upon seeing the misinformation and propaganda being disseminated by North Dakota officials and the Access Dakota pipeline company, about an Indian “uprising” and about the Protectors causing a “riot” or being painted as violent. People with no agenda and who have seen with their own eyes what is happening at Standing Rock, are overwhelmed with respect for the courageous people there who are committed to non-violent resistance and self-sacrifice. Anyone who sees what is actually happening there, are inspired to support them.